David Corkery: Ireland must give Gavin Coombes an extended run

After making his debut, the Skibbereen native needs full games from here
David Corkery: Ireland must give Gavin Coombes an extended run

Gavin Coombes won his first cap for Ireland against Japan. Picture: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

NO walk in the park for Ireland against Japan, but that was never really expected.

This was a game Ireland was never going to win by a landslide score and judging by Andy Farrell's pregame selection, it was a win-first and develop-second approach.

I fully realise that as an international coach your first and only job is to win as many games as you possibly can. And ultimately, it is your win-to-loss ratio that will determine the length of your tenure. 

However, there are not too many games where you will get the opportunity to blood new players and experiment with different styles of play.

This Vodafone Summer Series has no real consequences attached and I just can't see why the Irish management are not using them to test more of the uncapped players?

It was brilliant to see Skibbereen man Gavin Coombes receive his first cap off the bench but why was he only launched for the last nine minutes? 

Surely there was scope to introduce the Munster powerhouse just after halftime and allow him at least break a sweat against Japan. 


I must also question the value of bringing Craig Casey on for the last two minutes. It's nice to win another cap but how he plays and manages an international pack of forwards will have gained no further enhancement. 

I do not think it will be a day that lives long in his memory.

Japan approached this game as they do every game they play and were it not for a bit of indiscipline and some unlucky bounces of the ball they would have easily gone in at halftime leading on the scoreboard.

Japan's sophisticated out-half Yu Tamura, looked as if he was playing in an exhibition game and he was fearless with some of the plays he was looking to pull off.

At 32, Tamura was a joy to watch, and it would be great if some of the Irish playmakers took a leaf out of his book of tricks and played with a bit more risk and adventure.

In terms of physicality, the Irish players will not have been that sore after the final whistle however, their lungs will be thinking that they just competed in a pre-season gut-wrenching fitness session and were it not for the early morning rain, Japan would have tested the Irish players' lung capacity even further.

As the D'Unbelievables would say, Joey Carbery had a “bit of a mixed bag” and even though he played the full 80 minutes and his place kicking was on the money, you could not say he is the long-term replacement to Johnny Sexton after this performance.

For me, it just seems that Carbery is still lacking that bit of confidence and arrogance that all great out halves must have in abundance.

Both Sexton and O’Gara were able to walk into their pack of hulk-like forwards, give them a bollocking and not a single word would be said in defence because they would be afraid. This is called respect and unless Carbery starts to adopt some of his predecessor's characteristics, his time in the driving seat will come and go in a blink of an eye.

Peter O’Mahony looked a small bit tired but his leadership qualities shone through in abundance, especially when Ireland needed it the most. As normal his line-out endeavours were top class, and this was the facet of play that allowed Ireland to gain the upper hand in the second half.

Ireland’s Peter O'Mahony claims a high ball in the Aviva on Saturday. Picture: INPHO/Gary Carr
Ireland’s Peter O'Mahony claims a high ball in the Aviva on Saturday. Picture: INPHO/Gary Carr

As a game of rugby, it was great to watch because the lead swapped hands on seven occasions and because of the carefree approach that Japan play with, you were constantly glued to proceedings just waiting for something to happen.

Josh van der Flier was deservingly awarded the Man of the Match award however it was the impact of Leinster’s Ryan Baird who made the biggest impression.

At just 21 years of age Baird must surely be afforded a start next week against the USA and if he continues to impress, he along with the likes of Coombes will form the building blocks for Irelands next great warriors.

Next week's game against The Eagles is a completely different prospect and we really need to see some more of the new blood that is flowing through the provinces.

Casey, Coombes and Baird must all start, and Billy Byrnes must be afforded another outing in the number ten jersey.

Rob Herring is deserving of a start in the front row and Connacht’s Caolin Blade should be promoted to the bench as cover for Casey.

The USA will come out with all guns firing but, that will soon subside, and Ireland's professionalism and power will very quickly assume control.

I can see nothing but two wins from this series of games but, I do feel that an opportunity has come and gone for Farrell to view some of the next generation in a test arena.

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